Thursday, June 18, 2020

Progressive Claims There Are Lessons for American Police in Cuba? Do Black Lives Matter in a Communist Police State?

Do Black Lives Matter in Cuba?
Silverio Portal Contreras, prisoner of conscience
The Progressive, a publication founded in 1909 in Madison, Wisconsin claims to question anything, but when it comes to Cuba it has swallowed hook, line, and sinker the misinformation of the Castro regime on policing. On June 18, 2020 they published an article titled "Foreign Correspondent: Police Lessons From Cuba" by Reese Erlich that claims "Contrary to the image of brutal and repressive communists, police in Cuba offer an instructive example for activists in the United States."

On the same day Havana Times published an article by IPS-Cuba titled "Is it legal to Take Photos or Videos of Police in Cuba?" The case of George Floyd became known because his death was recorded by a civilian who witnessed the events as they transpired, and then uploaded the video and shared it with others. Now the question is would it be legal to do that in Cuba? 
According to Cuban lawyer Humberto Lopez asked last Wednesday June 10th, on an episode of his “Hacemos Cuba” TV show "recording the police officer isn't illegal or constitute a crime" but “if this image is uploaded onto a digital platform without this person’s consent, then you are using it without their authorization,”would violate the right to privacy of the police officer under Article 48 of the Cuban Constitution. The Cuban attorney added "that if the intent of the publication is to defame police actions (he didn’t say if it mattered if these actions were right or wrong), it is an administrative violation, which is subject to a fine, because it violates Decree-Law 370 passed in 2018, by the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications." 
Therefore, if the United States adopted this Cuban approach any person recording a police officer, then sharing that image on a digital platform would be violating their right to privacy, and if what they record the police officer doing, whether his or her actions were right or wrong, they would be fined and if they did not pay the fine would be subject to prison.

A law, patterned after Cuba's, would require those who record police on or off the job to get the approval of the police officer recorded before sharing the video with any digital platforms. Thankfully, the First Amendment prohibits such restrictions in the United States, and also runs afoul of international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Cuba is a signatory, even though the document is censored in the island.

According to a January 13, 2020 report in The New York Times a former high-ranking judge in Cuba provided documents which "showed that approximately 92 percent of those accused in the more than 32,000 cases that go to trial in Cuba every year are found guilty. Nearly 4,000 people every year are accused of being “antisocial” or “dangerous,” terms the Cuban government uses to jail people who pose a risk to the status quo, without having committed a crime." Furthermore, the article says that "records show that Cuba’s prison system holds more than 90,000 prisoners. The Cuban government has only publicly released the figure once, in 2012, when it claimed that 57,000 people were jailed."

Based on the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, according to the January 13, 2020 article by EuropaPress, Cuba today has the largest per capita prison population in the world.

The United States, in contrast to Cuba, offers regular reports on its prison system, and allows the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prison, including high security areas such as the prison at the Guantanamo Naval Base. The reason that so much is known and documented about the abuses with regards to the prisoners there is because the International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the U.S. Guantanamo detention facility over 100 times since 2001.

Meanwhile over the past 20 years the Cuban government permitted no visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross to Cuba's prisons. The Castro regime considered allowing a visit in 2013, but decided against it.

The Castro regime has demonstrated by not allowing international observers into its prisons that it is out of sight out of mind from most international indices, and gets the benefit of the doubt from "progressive publications."

Nevertheless there are moments that highlight the brutality of the regime.

Three black men executed by firing squad for trying to leave Cuba.
Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, were shot by firing squad following a speedy "trial" in 2003 for trying to leave Cuba. On April 2, 2003 eleven Cubans hijacked a ferry traveling to Regla from Havana with 40 people on board with the intention of traveling to the United States of America but ran out of fuel 28 miles off the Cuban coast and were towed back to the island.  Despite verbal threats made against the safety of the passengers to maintain control of the vessel, the situation, according to the authorities, ended without violence and that “all of those who had been on board were rescued and saved without so much as a shot or a scratch.”
The hijackers were tried by the "Court for Crimes against State Security of the People’s Court of Havana. The Court had applied the specially expedited summary proceeding contemplated in Articles 479 and 480 of the Criminal Procedure Act, and found guilty. They appealed their sentence, and it was quickly denied.  Unlike in the United States the Judiciary in Cuba is not independent of the Executive.

In the early morning of April 11, 2003, following the decision handed down by the Council of State, the sentences were carried out and Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac were executed by firing squad. Nine days after the hijacking and three days after the trial.

The Cuban government also knew how to handle the aftermath and avoid negative publicity.

Family members were informed of their loved ones' summary executions after they had already been buried.

​ Ramona Copello mourns execution of her son Lorenzo Enrique in 2003
Ramona Copello, Mother of Lorenzo Enrique Copello interviewed by the Associated Press described how: "They came to my home at 6 in the morning and knocked on the door and told me to go to the cemetery at 10:00. He was already dead and buried. Go to the cemetery at 10 (am) so we can tell you where your relative is buried. That was it. He was already buried, he was covered. I asked and implored and even kneeled so they would let me see his face. Since they are liars, I couldn't believe it was him. I uncovered the crypt. I uncovered it because I wanted to see if it was really him, but I couldn't see his face because the security and police arrived and so I didn't get to see his face. I'm not sure if it's my son or a dog buried there."

Lorenzo Enrique was 31 years old and left behind a widow and an 11 year old daughter, who last saw her dad on April 10, 2003. He worked as a caretaker in a health center.

Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla executed in 2003
On April 12, 2003 the Spanish newspaper El Pais on how another family reacted. "According to eyewitnesses, in the neighborhood of Central Havana, where Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla lived, who was 21 years old, some incidents were recorded when the execution was reported to his family. Sevilla's mother suffered a nervous breakdown upon hearing the news and went out of the house shouting against the government and crying, to which dozens of neighbors joined. The police arrived to control the situation and kept the area cordoned off all day long."

On April 25, 2003 Fidel Castro appeared on television to defend the three executions, and show trials against nonviolent dissidents that had taken place in parallel. The official transcript left out unscripted comments by the old dictator who referred to the three executed men as the "tres negritos" which translates into English as the "three pickaninnies."

Unlike in the United States, all mass media in Cuba is controlled by the Cuban Communist Party, and any embarrassing or inconvenient statements can be disappeared and erased from public view.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a black Cuban prisoner of conscience was subjected to systematic physical and psychological torture between 2003 and 2010, and following his death on February 23, 2010 was subjected to a campaign of vilification by Cuba's Communist authorities. Orlando's mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, denounced her son's mistreatment and held up a blood stained shirt that belonged to her son, who had been beaten up by prison guards, for rejecting communist re-education and continuing to denounce human rights violations in the prisons.
​ Reina Luisa Tamayo, with her son's bloody shirt
Ten years have passed since his untimely death, but many inside and outside of Cuba continue to demand justice for him and his family. The poster below reads "Tenth Anniversary of his Martyrdom: His Murderers Continue Without Being Tried" and underneath it reads "Orlando Zapata Tamayo: Martyr  for the Liberation of the Cuban people" followed by his birth date and the day he died.

Black lives matter, without question but the question that necessarily arises is do they matter everywhere, regardless of ideology? 
It necessarily arises because the leadership of the Black Lives Matter organization, despite the above examples (which are the tip of the iceberg) never raised these cases, but instead mourned the death of Fidel Castro in November 2016 and more shockingly defended what today is a old, male and white minority dictatorship in Cuba. 
Will progressives speak up about continuing injustices against black Cubans such as Silverio Portal Contreras, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, who is now serving a four-year prison sentence for "contempt" and "public disorder"? He was beaten by prison officials in mid-May 2020 and lost sight in one eye.

Do black lives matter in Cuba? Is the monstrous Cuban police state what progressives want to turn the United States into? 

No comments:

Post a Comment